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  • November 14, 2023 1:06 PM | Jacob Goldberg (Administrator)

    While our regular operating season is over, things are far from quiet at the museum! The past two weeks, we have been hard at work getting everything ready for our iconic Polar Express event, starting in just two weeks.

    Jeff and Mike set up icicle lights at Blackhawk

    James sets up Santa's Village at the North Pole

    We got all the pieces for Santa's Village in place and decorated cars 40/43

    Jacob acts as conductor/brakeman on the caboose with James as locomotive engineer while we are shoving it onto track 2 for some equipment moves

  • October 25, 2023 10:34 AM | Jacob Goldberg (Administrator)

    Yesterday, we added the newest car to our collection: Soo Line Caboose 117. This car is not only the most recently acquired item in our collection, but by far the newest item in our collection.

    The caboose was built in 1973 by the International Car Company, part of a set of 90 cabooses. At the time it entered service, it was painted red and white. The caboose was used at the rear end of freight trains all over the Soo Line until the late 1980s when it was made obsolete by the end of train device. While many cabooses after that point either were scrapped or donated, caboose 117 continued to see use on the Soo Line (later Canadian Pacific, and now CPKC), mainly as a shoving platform to allow conductors a more comfortable place to stand while moving a train in reverse and for moving crews and equipment in maintenance-of-way trains. In 2021, the caboose was repainted to the current green color it has now, instead of the red and white it originally had.

    In May of 2023, the caboose was retired and acquired as scrap by Marty Maggio of the Maggio Truck Center in Rockford. However, upon seeing that the caboose was in good shape, Maggio generously spared the caboose from the cutting torch and coordinated with Eric Zabelny to find it a more fitting home. Yesterday, its journey came to an end, arriving at our museum.

  • October 05, 2023 4:05 PM | Jacob Goldberg (Administrator)

    To bring in the fall this year, we had our first ever Oktoberfest! While offering trolley rides all day, we partnered with the local Rotary club, Pau Hauna Lounge, Ream's Meat Market, and many other local businesses and organizations to make this happen. The weather was absolutely unbeatable, warm and sunny for all three days, and we had a good crowd to enjoy some food, beer, music, train rides, and more.

    Thank you everyone who came out and everyone who partnered with us for a great event.

    On the railroad side of things, we had cars 4451 and 715 running all day. Lots of happy passengers. This was the first time we have carried passengers in 4451 since the springtime.

    We also had several bands playing throughout the event:

    Of course this post wouldn't be complete without a picture of the Stein holding competition, where competitors had to hold a Stein full of beer at arm's length for as long as possible.

    It also certainly wouldn't be Oktoberfest without beer. The bar was definitely a popular part of the event.

  • September 25, 2023 1:30 PM | Jacob Goldberg (Administrator)

    Last Saturday, we partnered up with Operation Lifesaver for National Rail Safety Week, an organization promoting railroad safety. We take safety extremely seriously on our railroad, it was fitting we partnered with them to teach rail safety to the public on our own railroad. We had a massive turnout and a lot of very happy faces, and our visitors left knowing how to stay safe around trains.

    Did you know that at every railroad crossing, there is a blue sign with a phone number and a crossing identifier? If your car is stuck on the crossing, you can call that number and give them the crossing identifier and they will stop any trains in the vicinity to save your car.

    Two Operation Lifesaver volunteers show the sign that tells you how to stop a freight train if your car gets stuck on a crossing

    We had CA&E Car 458 ready to carry passengers.

    Operation Lifesaver had a representative on every train to give a presentation on how to stay safe around train tracks

    We had so many visitors that we brought out North Shore Line 715 to carry additional passengers

  • September 14, 2023 10:12 AM | Jacob Goldberg (Administrator)

    While we have a lot of experienced volunteers trained on our various electric cars, we only have a few people with experience on our diesel locomotives, especially Locomotive 5. This past weekend we started changing that by training a bunch of our operators on Locomotive 5 with the Caboose Train. On Sunday, operators Ben Rohling and Jacob Goldberg (who is also the dutiful webmaster) were trained in Locomotive 5 by Jeff Bennett. In addition, Jeff gave Jacob a practice run in Locomotive 5 the previous week after hours to get a feel for the controls and how it handled.

    For the first run of the day, we ran the freight train without passengers to make sure Ben and Jacob had a good handle on the controls and how a freight train operates. The run went without issue, so we ran the subsequent runs with passengers. Over the next few weeks we will train several other operators on Locomotive 5 so we can have a large pool of volunteers available to operate it in the future. We are continuing to expand the capabilities of our volunteer force, and are always looking for new volunteers.

    The Caboose Train will be running the next two Sundays, September 17 and 24. No advance reservations are required and it is included in a regular admission. Stop on by to experience life on a freight train!

    Jeff takes a selfie while Jacob is at the controls and Ben watches

    Jacob operates the locomotive near Woodcliff

    Close-up of Jacob operating the locomotive

    Jacob operates the locomotive with Ben watching

  • September 09, 2023 6:43 PM | Jacob Goldberg (Administrator)

    It gives us great pleasure to introduce to our museum team Shelia M. Pardo, the new Executive Director of the Fox River Trolley Museum.

    She will be an incredible part of the Museum and will be working with the Board of Directors and our Department Heads to move the Museum forward in improving our visitor facilities, community outreach, educational programs, volunteer programs, and so much more.

    Here is a brief biography:

    Shelia M. Pardo is a seasoned leader who possess over two decades of Business, Accounting & Finance. She brings tremendous energy, strategic thinking, innovation and creativity to her work. Shelia is recognized by her peers for having a passion for helping others, and exceptional leadership skills.

    Shelia holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Management and a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Leadership from Aurora University.

    After the loss of her grandmother, Shelia sought to assist others in similar situations and founded “Journey On” to both reflect on her own grief, and to provide comfort for those experiencing a loss. Journey On has serviced individuals and families within the Chicagoland, Indiana and Wisconsin areas for over a decade and continues to offer support today.

    Shelia enjoys volunteering, watching sports, yoga, running, biking and spending time with her family and friends.

    Personal Statement:

    As a highly motivated and results-driven executive, I am eager to contribute my skills and experience to the Fox River Trolley Museum. Throughout my career, I have developed a reputation for being a problem-solver and effective communicator, with a keen eye for detail and the ability to work under pressure. My passion lies with helping others, I look forward to our growth together. - Shelia Pardo

    All of the members of the museum are very excited to have Shelia join the Fox River Trolley Museum. Exciting times are ahead!

  • September 08, 2023 12:43 PM | Jacob Goldberg (Administrator)

    This past Monday after closing, we set up for the Caboose Train, which runs the next three Sundays. The caboose has been open on static display all season, but comes to life starting this Sunday. The caboose was already in the right place, but we needed to grab our Wilson freight car to make it a true freight train. After moving a few other railcars out of the way, we coupled Locomotive 5 (which originally carried freight right on our own rails) to the Wilson car, then brought it out onto track 2 next to the platform to couple it with the caboose. Now we have a true freight train, with a locomotive, caboose, and freight car.

    The following three Sundays, September 10, 17, and 24, the caboose train will be carrying passengers! Passengers are welcome to ride in either the caboose or the locomotive and experience a piece of what life was like for workers on freight trains before cabooses were replaced by lineside defect detectors and end-of-train devices. This Caboose Train does not require any advance reservations and is available for regular admission. We will also be running CA&E car 458 this Sunday to allow visitors to experience an interurban passenger car in addition to a freight train.

  • August 12, 2023 8:51 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Museum Member Stan Nettis passed away on Monday July 3, 2023.

    Stan was a long time Member of the Fox River Trolley Museum as a motorman, conductor, and a big help on the track crew.  From 1992 to 1999, Stan was a Board Member and held the office of Treasurer until 1999.  Stan was also a big help in the Museum Store.   Declining health meant that Stan had to give up being on train crew, but he was always a part of the Museum until the day he passed away.

    I first met Stan in 1982 as a fellow member of the Central Electric Railfans Association and fondly remember riding with him in October 1983 on the farewell trip of the old South Shore Cars.

    Stan, you are very much in our hearts and memories.   You will be very much missed.

    It was Stan's wish that his ashes be scattered at the Museum.  Stan's daughter, Robyn Nettis, will bring his remains home to the Museum on Sunday, August 13, 2023 with a special charter at 10:00 AM to lay Stan to rest.

    In remembrance of Stan, Robyn has asked that donations be made in his name to the Fox River Trolley Museum.

    Ed Konecki, President

  • July 19, 2023 9:49 PM | Jacob Goldberg (Administrator)

    On Sunday July 17th, 2023 the museum hosted some visiting “firemen” from the Northern Ohio Railway Museum.  Steve Heister, who has been helpful since we acquired 304 and 458, and who has access to the Gerald Brookins collection of papers from the old Trolleyville museum now in the special collections of the Cleveland State University library,  and has been sharing relevant information about 304.  They are restoring sister 303 so we have exchanged notes on that front.   As a youth he volunteered at Trolleyville and vouches for the fact that 458 was never operated there and was very impressed at our restoration.  With him was Blaine Hays, who was an administrative assistant to Ed Allen when he was the head of the Shaker Heights Rapid Transit shop.  For those who don’t know, Ed Allen was the young CA&E employee holding two phone handsets in an iconic photo taken at Forest Park on the fateful July 3rd in 1957 when passenger service was ended at midday.  Ed was one of the people who tried to retain the Elgin branch as freight short line.  While this effort failed, the group evolved into RELIC with Ed being one of the founding members of our predecessor organization.  Later he moved on to become the master mechanic of the Iowa Terminal (now Iowa Traction) electric short line in Mason City, Iowa which is where I first met him.  Later on he moved to Cleveland to become the head of maintenance at Shaker Heights Rapid Transit and when it was folded into GCRTA he became head of all rail maintenance there.  Blaine continued his friendship with Ed after their retirements and when the Brookins collection was finally being disbursed to other museums in 2009, Blaine would take pictures of the CA&E cars at the GCRTA Brookpark facility and share them with Ed, who by that time was in assisted living.  Ed told Blaine that those photos of his beloved CA&E cars were what kept him going.  Ed passed away just one day after the last batch of pictures arrived.

    Much to our surprise we had another fabled visitor, Karl Johnson, who is currently head of maintenance of the Memphis Area Transit Authority’s streetcar line.  When I first met him, decades ago, he was head of maintenance of the historic streetcar fleet at Muni in San Francisco as well as the PCC’s and Italian  Peter Witts that operate on the famous F streetcar line. (The cable cars are a separate division.) 

    We toured our car barn and had rides on 458.  Karl left in the early afternoon to visit Desplaines Hobbies, a  shop he has done mail-order business with but had never been there in person.

    In the photos it is Karl, Steve, Blaine and Jeff.  On a later 458 trip after Karl was gone we had a “hornfest” at Coleman with a westbound CN freight to the delight of our visitors and the CN crew alike!  And yes we waited until the whole train passed overhead per our safety protocol.

  • June 28, 2023 9:33 PM | Jacob Goldberg (Administrator)

    While most of our visitors come from the Chicago area, we do get a good number of visitors from all over the US. Occasionally we even get international visitors, and this past weekend we were visited by a group of British tourists.

    They arrived in a charter bus, and received a tour of the car barn given by Damin, then rode on a special ride CA&E 458 (including an explanation of the history of the car by Joe) behind the regularly scheduled run in Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee 715. Later on, they rode the final trip of the day in 715 and then returned to their hotel, which is near the Skokie Swift, built on the former North Shore Line tracks where 715 once ran.

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Ever since CTA began to assemble its 21st Century Heritage Fleet, rail enthusiasts have expressed hope that 'L' cars of decades past could be returned from museums or private owners to enlarge the fleet.

Thanks to CTA and the Fox River Trolley Museum, those hopes have come true.

The museum has re-sold cars 6101-02 to CTA for Heritage Fleet operation. The Fox River board approved the sale at its July 8 meeting. CTA signed off on the terms in late July and moved the cars from South Elgin to CTA Skokie Shops Aug. 9-10.

"We've done our part for historic preservation, which is our mission," said museum President Edward Konecki. "Now it's time for them to go home."

The married pair, built by the now-defunct St. Louis Car Co. in 1950, features a set of outside conductor's controls and twin headlights, which makes them unique among surviving 6000-series cars.

Fox River has long-term preservation in mind. CTA once had a Heritage Fleet of streetcars and rapid transit equipment that was disbanded in the 1980s.  Today's Heritage Fleet is its second.  The re-sale contract includes a clause that gives the museum a 90-day right of first refusal to regain possession of the cars, should CTA decide to terminate its current Heritage Fleet program. If returned, they must be in fully operable condition. The cars were never used in public operations at Fox River because of restrictions written into the contact between the museum and CTA in the 1990s. Essentially, Fox River could not carry paying passengers on the cars. That clause will not be included should the cars revert to Fox River.

CTA hopes to unveil the cars to the public in time for its 70th birthday party in October.

CTA, created in 1945 by the Metropolitan Transit Authority Act to take control of the city's mass transportation providers, bought the 'L' from the receivers of the bankrupt Chicago Rapid Transit Co. Oct. 1, 1947.  Today it is one of the three operating agencies that compose the Regional Transportation Authority.  

The Fox River Trolley Museum is a not-for-profit, founded in 1961, dedicated to the preservation Chicago's electric railway heritage and interpretation of the lines' colorful history. All workers at the museum are volunteers.  The museum operates its demonstration railway, a remnant of the old Aurora Elgin & Fox River Electric Co. interurban (inter-city) rail line, on Sundays from Mother's Day through the end of October, Saturdays in July and August and on three major in-season holidays -- Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day..

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